Rand Paul, Breitbart.com Columnist

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 7 2013 10:28 AM

Rand Paul, Breitbart.com Columnist

As recently as Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Rand Paul was a columnist for the Washington Times. Some of the conservative newspaper's sale boxes advertised that fact, slapping photos of the senator on the front of them and telling buyers they could "read him every week." Paul's team did not say that the column would end, even though Andrew Kaczynski, the Jason Bourne of Internet research, had proved that a column on mandatory minimums was largely copied.

On Tuesday night, when many politicos were watching election results, Washington Times Editor John Solomon suspended Paul. Twenty-four hours later, Breitbart.com announced it would pick up the column. Its official announcement made no mention of the copied-text scandal, so I asked Steve Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News Network, whether the site would be monitoring what Paul turned in more closely.

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"We will provide editorial support that the Washington Times didn't," wrote Bannon in an email. (I've lightly edited his response to remove thumb-type-ese. "To me what's important is look at what he was trying to get across at Liberty [University]. I think the conservative media doesn't understand how powerful his understanding of culture up river from politics really is. Christie just another politician: You may love him or not but it doesn't really mean anything. Paul and the liberty movement are much different. Why? Because it can reach the Dave Weigels of the world, and that means victory in the long term. The easy stuff of editorial support is a no brainer."

This is one reason why the Paul story—which I do think has made it into the rotation of facts the mainstream media considers important about Paul—has not damaged him on the right. Another reason? Compare this situation with Joe Biden's 1987 rip-off of then-Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock's "platform on which to stand" speech. What makes this so devastating?

Easy: the video. Biden could never overcome (not that year, anyway) the side-by-side of him using the words crafted by the florid, arm-swinging Welshman. Apart from that Liberty speech, with its rip from the Wikipedia entry for Gattaca, and a speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Paul's copied text has all appeared in print. His sources were print, not video that could be compared and contrasted.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.